Doing Almost Nothing is a Good Option

And this is probably what Netanyahu will do. My guess is that the thinking set out in this article is shared by Netanyahu and his advisers. He has no interest in going on offense or making bold moves. As always, Netanyahu will try to keep America happy rather than cross them in any way except for maybe Iran. Ted Belman

by Prof. Efraim Inbar, BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 247

Now that the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations have ended in failure, many political actors advocate taking advantage of the political limbo to advance their preferred unilateral plans. The Israeli political right-wing is promoting annexation of Area C, while the left-wing is advocating a “coordinated” (whatever that means) unilateral withdrawal. Government officials have spoken about the need for Israel to “do something.” Others suggest negotiating with the Quartet, instead of the Palestinians.

Activism is unquestionably a trait that is admired in Israel. Zionist-rooted rhetoric such as “we have to determine our borders and destiny on our own” indeed falls on receptive ears.

However, probably the wisest course of action for Israel is a patient and cautious “wait and see” approach. Resolving the conflict is impossible, but attempting to manage it in order to minimize suffering to both sides and to minimize the diplomatic costs to Israel – is within reach.

Kerry’s initiative has indeed ended in failure. But the sky has not fallen. There is no sense of alarm or fear of a great impending crisis, not in Israel nor in the region nor elsewhere in the world.

Real pressure on Israel to change the status quo is unlikely. The assumption that time is running against Israel is simply wrong. As a matter of fact, the Palestinian issue is likely to become less salient in the international arena over time.

After the Kerry debacle, Washington is left counting an additional foreign policy failure, trying to digest what happened and pondering on how to proceed. Its current instinct is to stay away from interventionist initiatives. The US, drained by two wars (Afghanistan and Iraq) and blessed with new energy finds, does not want to get dragged into further conflicts in a Middle East that seems less central to its interests. So the Obama administration may be less inclined to intervene in the intractable Israeli-Palestinian conflict than ever before. Even if the US obsession with Palestinian statehood persists for some reason, it is still better for Israel to wait and learn Washington’s next moves before devising an adequate response.

Moreover, in light of America’s great importance to Israel, uncoordinated unilateral steps by Israel regarding the West Bank are not advisable. Israeli statements expressing a commitment to future peace negotiations, coupled with restraint in building beyond the settlement blocs, might be enough to keep America at bay and reluctant to intervene.

The US is also unlikely to be confronted with Arab pressure to focus on the Palestinian issue if Israel does not engage in drastic steps. The Arab world is undergoing a tremendously difficult economic and socio-political crisis and is busy dealing with domestic problems. Moreover, the Iranian nuclear threat continues to be the most urgent foreign policy issue, putting most Sunni states in the same strategic boat as Israel. Even the Palestinians do not take Arab lip service on their behalf seriously.

In all probability, most countries of the world can also live with an unresolved Palestinian issue. There are many simmering territorial conflicts all over the world. Nowadays, Crimea and Eastern Ukraine dominate the news. In the coming months and years, many human and political tragedies will divert attention away from the Palestinian issue.

Significantly, the Palestinians have no impact on truly important strategic issues such as nuclear proliferation or energy that might galvanize powerful states into action. Once, the Palestinians were an important actor in international terrorism. This is no longer true. Nowadays, Palestinians are very dependent upon international aid. Rocking the boat by using too much violence threatens the livelihood of Palestinians receiving the Palestinian Authority’s salaries and benefits, and risks Israel’s strong retaliation. Simply put, the Palestinians have only limited international leverage and are vulnerable to Israel’s potentially harmful countermeasures.

Moreover, the Palestinians have an excellent record of “shooting themselves in their own foot.” The unity agreement between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas is the latest example of this.

Whatever some experts say, Israel is not isolated in the international community. Israel is a strong country, possessing a remarkable web of international interactions. Significantly, Israel’s relations with the world are only marginally affected by its conflict with the Palestinians.

The political actors most obsessed with the Palestinian issue, the Israeli political Left and the Europeans, are in decline. The Oslo process, with which the Israeli Left was associated, has failed, delegitimizing its initiators. The Eurozone is facing acute problems, further reducing its limited ability to be a true strategic actor. The ability of these weakened political actors to push the Palestinian issue to the top of the international agenda has become increasingly curtailed. Contemporary international circumstances could lead to further marginalization of the Palestinian issue.

Israelis, like many misguided Westerners, often succumb to counterproductive hyper-activism. Yet doing almost nothing might bring about better results than activating unilateral plans of all kinds.

Prof. Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, is a professor of political studies at Bar-Ilan University, and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.

BESA Center Perspectives Papers are published through the generosity of the Greg Rosshandler Family

May 15, 2014 | 10 Comments »

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  1. The man who did as much more than anyone else to create the modern state of Israel was David Ben Gurion.

    From the days of the World Zionist Conference in 1920 in London, until the founding of the State of Israel, Ben-Gurion participated in all of the important decisions of the Zionist movement: As a delegate at the Zionist congresses, as a member of various committees, and as the Chairman of the Jewish Agency in Jerusalem. He defined the purpose of Zionism at the 14th Zionist Congress in 1925:
    “Zionism is defined as the building of a state. As soon as one removes this internal foundation from Zionism, it becomes castrated and emptied of all content.”
    However, in the 17th Zionist Congress (1931), Ben-Gurion opposed the demand of the Revisionists to declare publicly the final goal of Zionism. On the way toward the building of the state, Ben-Gurion advocated gradual and practical steps and opposed any declarations of Jewish statehood, which, he felt, they did not have (yet) the means to carry out to fruition.

    In 1937, together with Chaim Weizmann and Moshe Sharett, Ben-Gurion supported the Peel Commission partition plan, which suggested establishing a Jewish state in part of the Land of Israel. The proposal received his support even though the area allocated to the Jewish state was small. He felt that even such a small state can be an effective means toward reaching the Zionist goal.

    Ben-Gurion participated in the St. James Conference in London, following which the third White Paper was published, limiting Jewish immigration and purchase of land in Land of Israel. Upon his return to the Land of Israel, Ben-Gurion declared an open struggle against British rule. In the 21st Zionist Congress (August 1939), he defined the struggle against the White Paper policy as follows:
    We need to act as though we were the State in the Land of Israel, and we need to act as such until we will be, so that we will be the State in the Land of Israel… We are standing before a major and tragic fight with the English government, but on this front we will not yield nor flinch even a bit.
    Ben-Gurion fought the White Paper by increasing settlement activity, especially in areas that were forbidden for Jews. His opposition to the anti-Zionist policy of the British continued after the outbreak of World War II. Despite that, he supported active participation in the war against Hitler and the formation of Jewish units within the British military.
    “We need to help the English in the war as if there were no ‘White Paper,’ and we need to oppose the ‘White Paper’ as if there is no war.”
    In May 1942, Ben-Gurion was among the promoters of the Biltmore Conference in New York, and opened the struggle for the immediate establishment of a Jewish state. The demand for immediate self-rule was seen as a rejection for any proposed partition of the land, and therefore, there were many political opponents of the “Biltmore Program.” Within his own ranks, David Ben-Gurion took a strong stance against the splinter militant groups, Irgun and Lehi, for their use of terror tactics against the British army presence in the Land of Israel.

    In 1946, at a conference of German refugees, Ben-Gurion said:
    “We will not be silent until the last of you who so desires will join us in the Land of Israel to build together the Jewish state.”
    In the years following WWII, Ben-Gurion escalated the struggle against the “White Paper” policy. On “Black Saturday (Shabbat)” – June 29, 1946 – the day on which the British suppression reached its climax with Operation Agatha (many Jewish political leaders and businessmen were arrested), Ben-Gurion was abroad. He wrote from there:
    “We shall not despair nor harbor delusions. No Massada, and no Vichy. If we are expecting difficult and bitter days of struggle, we will remember that we are not preparing for a final battle, and our souls ‘do not wish to perish with the Philistines.’ With that, one must know that the moment we reconcile ourselves and put our heads down and do not have the will or perseverance to stand in the gate, then we will begin to fall down the slope that leads to the abyss.
    Ben-Gurion opposed all those who called for compromise with the British government in order to preserve the current situation. At the same time, he continued to act strongly against the “terrorist” acts of the Irgun and Lehi military groups. He viewed them as a danger to the Zionist struggle and as an excuse for the British authorities to exercise punitive measures en masse against the Jewish Yishuv.

    Following WWII, Ben-Gurion expected and cautioned of an attack of the Arab countries on the Jewish Yishuv. In his speeches, he demanded to place security issues as top Zionist priority. In the 22nd Zionist Congress (1946) he took on himself the defense portfolio and worked to strengthen the “Hagana” – to expand it, to better train the members, and especially to obtain military equipment.

    On April 18th 1948, Ben-Gurion was appointed the head of the People’s Administration and also in charge of security matters of the Yishuv. On May 14th, 1948, when the People’s Council declared the State of Israel, Ben-Gurion became the Prime Minister and Defense Minister. Regarding this day, he wrote in his diary:
    I arrive in Jerusalem early in the morning and found the city rejoicing and happy. People were dancing in the streets, and a large crowd gathered in the courtyard of the Jewish Agency building. To tell you the truth, the joy was not a part of me – not because I didn’t appreciate the decision of the UN. Rather, I knew what was to come – war with all of the Arab armies.
    In the War of Independence, under the leadership of Ben-Gurion, the Israeli Defense Forces overcame the armies of the Arab states and the “irregulars” who joined them.

    After the elections for the Constituent Assembly (which turned into the First Knesset), Ben-Gurion was again appointed Prime Minister and Minister of Defense. In those first years of statehood, he stood at the forefront of the effort to absorb massive immigration and to build the economy amidst difficult conditions. He also called for people to fulfill their potential as pioneer settlers, especially in the Negev.

    As Prime Minister, Ben-Gurion worked intensively to fortify the status of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. About a year after the War of Independence, he initiated the Knesset decision to move the Knesset and all of the government offices to Jerusalem. He claimed that this move will for once and all abolish the demand to internationalize Jerusalem, a demand that kept appearing in various international contexts. His attitude toward Jerusalem, as well as the attitudes of others of his generation, was most likely influenced by the fact that the Old City was lost to Israel during the War of Independence.

    Throughout his years as Prime Minister, until his final retirement in 1963, he resigned numerous times from his role over coalition crises and inter-party struggles. In 1953, he resigned from the government and joined the Sde-Boker Kibbutz in the Negev. He explained that his resignation was motivated by personal reasons including his inability to withstand the emotional stress that comes along with his government jobs. The role of Prime Minister he turned over to Moshe Sharett, and Pinhas Lavon replaced him as Minister of Defense.

    In February 1955, following Lavon’s resignation over the “Esek Bish” affair, and following the elections of 1955, Ben-Gurion returned to his post as Prime Minister. After the Egyptian-Czech arms deal of 1955, in which Soviet arms were sold to Egypt, Ben-Gurion announced to the Knesset:
    “If the lines of the armistice are to open beyond the border to terrorists and murderers, they will not be closed to the defenders and gatekeepers.”
    One year later, Ben-Gurion stood at the head of “Operation Kadesh” during which the IDF, in coordination with France and Great Britain, conquered half of the Sinai peninsula. Later, Ben-Gurion developed a close friendly relationship with the French president of the time, Charles De Gaulle.

    Despite wide-ranging public opposition, led by the leader of the “Herut” movement Menachem Begin, Ben-Gurion labored to achieve a signed agreement with West Germany on the payment of reparations already in 1952. In the beginning of the 60’s, he met with German Chancellor Conrad Adenauer, and in 1965, the process to establish diplomatic ties with Germany was set in motion. During the years 1963-1965 Ben-Gurion attempted to be in contact with leaders of Arab states, but to no avail.

    In 1963, Ben-Gurion resigned from his post in the Government. Though he explained this resignation also as being for “personal reasons,” he apparently was compelled to leave when he realized that his basic opinions on foreign affairs and security were not supported by his political peers. The disagreements surrounded the following issues: The development of a nuclear option, the diplomatic ties with Germany, especially following the affair of the German scientists who developed missiles for Egypt. Though the debate regarding these issues quieted down in the later 60’s, at the beginning of the decade, they were the center of major social dispute – both among the public and among the members of the government.

    As per Ben-Gurion’s recommendation, Levi Eshkol was appointed Prime Minster and Minister of the Defense. Soon, however, disagreement between Ben-Gurion and Eshkol escalated because of information that was coming to light regarding the Lavon Affair (“Esek Bish” – 1954). In the summer of 1963, Ben-Gurion decided that remaining in the Government would damage his prestige and he announced his resignation from the Government and the Knesset. Shortly afterwards, he modified his decision and remained a Knesset Member. In June 1965, he split off from Mapai – together with Moshe Dayan, Shimon Peres, and others – and established the “Rafi” (Israel Labor List) party which won 10 Knesset seats in the Sixth Knesset. After the Six Day War (1967) Rafi merged with Mapai and “Achdut Avoda – Poalei Zion” to form the Israel Labor Party. Ben-Gurion refused to join the Labor Party and remained a single MK.

    Until the Six Day War, Ben-Gurion was opposed to any preemptive attack on Arab countries, and appealed for the use of peaceful methods to overcome crises. On June 5, 1967, the first day of the Six Day War, when he found out that Israel’s air force took out the Egyptian air force on the ground, he was ecstatic. In the following days, he was also thrilled with the conquest of the Old City of Jerusalem, which he saw as the completion of the War of Independence. His joy, however, was tinted with fear of the possible reprisals following the victory and the unification of Jerusalem.

    Ben-Gurion realized that the world support for Israel of the time will not last and requested to set down facts immediately in Jerusalem before it’s too late. He used his position and prestige to influence the Government members and the mayor of Jerusalem, Teddy Kollek (who was a Rafi member) to make some far-reaching changes in the nature of the city, including the immediate resettlement of the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, even at the price of resettling Arab residents in the western part of the city. He also pushed the mayor to expand the plaza area by the Western Wall (Kotel) to accommodate large numbers of people who will want to pray there.

    In the elections for the Seventh Knesset in 1969, Ben-Gurion ran at the head of a party called the National List (“Reshima Mamlachtit”) which won 4 Knesset seats. In June 1970, at the age of 84, Ben-Gurion resigned from the Knesset and from political life. He went to live in Sde-Boker and wrote his memoirs.

    David Ben-Gurion published tens of books, most of them collections of articles and speeches. Some of them were collections of letters and historical studies on the Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel and the history of the state


  2. This is the story of Betty Knouth.

    From YNET:,7340,L-3320855,00.html

    Interesting stuff. She attempted to bomb a civilian train station in London; and later she attempted a terror campaign in Britain.

    A few months later, her luck ran out and she was caught in Belgium with nine kilos of explosives meant to destroy British ships, as well as a suitcase whose false bottom contained envelopes of explosives which were meant to escort several British leaders to the London cemetery.

    She was given on a year in jail in Belgium. After that, the French welcomed her.

    If a Palestinian youth did that today … I doubt it would be merely a year before it went to trial.

    Good looking lady

    She moved to Beer Sheva and opened a nightclub.

    Sadly, she died rather young.

    Not judging Betty; but noticing that you are a bitter man, Yamit.

    You do not approve of any Jewish leader.

  3. Since you do not like Ben Gurion – who I would characterize as corrupt as a Tammany Hall politician – who do you like?

    Avraham Stern, who negotiated with the Nezis.

    Ze’ev Jabotinsky who was a buddy of Mussonlini.

    Begin, whom you blame for the surrender of Yamit in the Sinai.

    Shamir, whose group assassinated innocents, like Folke Bernodotte; and well as civilians. Berndotte was a diplomat. There was no need to kill him.

    Betty Knouth went on a terror campaign in Europe.

    She only got a year in jail … less than PLO fighters.

    Yamit82, you are a bitter man.

  4. @ SHmuel HaLevi 2:
    @ Bear Klein:

    Judenrat and other rats

    Ben Gurion: did he not expect a war in 1947, despite the spiraling violence and clear declarations of intent by Arabs? But he rushed to arm the Jewish militia only after the war was well underway. Had Ben Gurion instituted mass military training of Jews and at least procured arms, then most of the 6,000 Jews who died in that war would be alive—and would have happy children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Instead, Ben Gurion directed his militia to fight other Jewish groups, like ETZEL and LEHI.

    Ben Gurion did not want to upset the British—even at the cost of thousands of Jewish lives. The extent of his disregard to Jewish deaths was seen in the Holocaust: Zionist leadership refused to push the Western governments for visas for Jewish refugees, bombing the death camps, or absolution of European dictators who contacted the Allies asking for personal guarantees in return for sabotaging the deportation of Jews. Most infamously, Ben Gurion and his ultra-rich Jewish friends virtually ignored the German offer to spare the entire Hungarian Jewry for a very reasonable, militarily inessential number of trucks, cocoa beans, and other dual-use goods. And yet, Ben Gurion had the audacity to persistently deride Zeev Zhabotinsky as “Vladimir Hitler” even though Zhabotinsky was rushing about the burning pre-war Europe trying to convince Jews to flee. The very Ben Gurion, the conspirator of silence who bears full responsibility for the Holocaust and should have been hanged alongside Eichmann, was laughing at Zhabotinsky’s efforts to save Jews before the war and Hillel Kook’s efforts during it.

    Ben Gurion, a complicit Nazi collaborator, took care to absolve the explicit ones. One Rudolf Kasztner, a “leader” of Hungarian Jewry, assisted the Nazis in deporting us to Auschwitz—12,000 Jews each day, every day. In recognition of his outstanding achievements in keeping the slaughtered flock quiet, the Germans allowed 1,700 of his rich proteg’es to escape. In 1955 an Israeli court found him guilty, literally, of “selling his soul to the devil” for failing to alert the Hungarian Jews to their fate. In those years of Soviet-style totalitarian control over the judicial branch, it took great courage for the judge to issue such a verdict, especially as Kasztner was represented by the government. Three years later, the Israeli Supreme Court acquitted Kasztner, who had thankfully been killed by then; no reasonable person in Israel has the slightest doubt that Ben Gurion heavily influenced the Supreme Court.”

  5. @ bernard ross:

    Israel would face a concerted effort to isolate us which doesn’t bother me all that much but most Israelis who travel and our businessmen and VIP would howl like HB’s coyotes.

    Sweden refuses entry to Peres’s plane
    President’s office blames Stockholm, but Foreign Ministry points finger at private aviation company handling flight

    Read more: Sweden refuses entry to Peres’s plane | The Times of Israel

  6. Hopefully Bennett influences Bibi-

    In wake of talks’ collapse, Bennett to present PM with proposal to annex Area C

    Economy minister to meet in coming days with Netanyahu for “brainstorming” efforts to explore other “policy options” following the breakdown of peace negotiations with the Palestinians

    The Bayit Yehudi head has recently met a number of cabinet ministers and senior officials of various parties to discuss the plan, trying to create a “untied front” behind it. During one meeting he said the recent breakdown in the negotiations was the time for Israel to put its own initiative on the table, and start to “move forward after 20 years of trying one track, which has met with no success.”

  7. Ben Gurion would not follow such advise, would he? If he had, Israel would not exist.
    We have followed bad leaders of the dismal cowardly type and posting the wrong concepziah for many years to now find ourselves further and further hemmed in.
    Leaders act with vigor. Tiny Tim’s tip toe through the tulips.
    Neyanyahu was, is and will be a grim disaster.